DHEC updates COVID-19 guidance on quarantines for K-12 students, teachers

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 2:20 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control updated its COVID-19 school guidance.

On Sunday, the agency made changes to its K-12 schools booklet to reflect the latest COVID data and trends. It provides information on quarantine and isolation periods for students and teachers and when they can safely return to the classroom in more specific scenarios.

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DHEC states that the goal of the changes to keep as many children in school as possible while also making sure they are as safe as possible.

The updated guidance shows that a close contact may shorten quarantine for five days if the following conditions are met:

  • The person has no symptoms
  • They test negative on a viral (PCR or antigen) test on Day 4 or later after the exposure
  • They must wear a mask through Day 10 at all times except when eating, drinking or when they’re outdoors and more than six feet from others.

Schools also have two additional options for quarantine:

  • When necessary, a person may temporarily use a 10-day quarantine period, where a close contact can end quarantine after Day 10 without testing if the individual is not experiencing symptoms.
  • Schools can also choose to implement a “Test To Stay” program, which can avoid the need for quarantine in many cases, but this will depend on the availability of rapid tests.

A student or staff member on tested positive for COVID-19 can also return to school after Day 5 as long as they have no fever and their other symptoms are improving and they must wear a mask through Day 10.

If someone ends isolation or quarantine early after five days and chooses not to wear a mask, they must observe a 10-day isolation or quarantine period.

“We know there are obvious concerns about decreasing the number of recommended quarantine and isolation days during a time when cases are spiking,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “But we are confident this guidance provides the best opportunity to keep students and teachers in the classroom without increasing exposure.

In addition to the school guidance update, DHEC is adopting the CDC’s recommendation for adults to receive a Moderna booster five months after their initial vaccination series.

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